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IRS warns of e-mail scams
Lawyer News | 2006/12/30 02:30

Iowans are being warned about stepped up scams in email that may look like they're from the Internal Revenue Service. IRS spokesman Christopher Miller says the schemes have been around for months but they've picked up again in recent weeks.

Miller says the fraudulent e-mails are designed to trick the recipients into disclosing personal and financial information, usually credit card numbers, PINS, Social Security numbers and account numbers, which could be used to steal their identity and financial assets. Identity theft is a growing crime that's costing tens of thousands of Americans millions of dollars.

Miller says the agency's investigators have identified about a hundred different e-mail scams involving the IRS, many with similarities. The language of the e-mails is typically the same, saying after the latest calculations, they've determined the person is due a tax refund of 63dollars and 80cents -- which Miller says is significant because many of the scams use that same total. Miller says the tax collection agency never makes it a practice to email Iowans to ask for this sort of information.

Miller says the IRS typically uses regular mail or sometimes phone calls but they make sure to verify the individual they're talking to by using information only they would know. He says they've seen a recent rise in complaints about these bogus emails and taxpayers in Iowa who want to make sure they're not ignoring the real thing -do- have an alternative.

SEC Announces Administrative Judge McEwen To Retire
Headline News | 2006/12/29 20:24

Administrative Law Judge Lillian A. McEwen has announced that she is retiring from her position with the SEC, effective Jan. 3, 2007. Since her appointment in September 1995, Judge McEwen has presided over, and issued initial decisions in, scores of administrative proceedings brought by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. She also served on multiple occasions as the SEC delegate to the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference and was a founding member of Judicial Council, which is affiliated with the Washington Bar Association.

Prior to her appointment to the SEC, Judge McEwen served as an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration in Fresno, Calif., from July 1994 to March 1995, at which time she was promoted to Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge in New Haven, Conn. Judge McEwen began her legal career in 1975 as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. From 1979 to 1982, she was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked extensively with Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., on criminal forfeiture and racketeering legislation. Judge McEwen then practiced criminal law privately from 1983 to 1989 and 1993 to 1994. During 1989 through 1992, she was an Assistant Professor of Law at the District of Columbia School of Law.

Calif. Supreme Court takes 'gay marriage' case
Court Feed News | 2006/12/29 20:21
The California Supreme Court announced Dec. 20 it would take up a much-publicized gay marriage case.

The decision to accept the case was unanimous among the court's seven justices, although a date for oral arguments has yet to be set. Conservative groups had hoped the court would decline the appeal and allow a lower court ruling against gay marriage to stand.

At issue is a California law passed by voters in 2000 that protects the natural, traditional definition of marriage. Known as Proposition 22, it passed with 61 percent of the vote.

“The people of California spoke in 2000, and the people’s voice should be heard," Glen Lavy, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, said in a statement.

ADF supports allowing the current law to stand.

“Political special interests shouldn’t trump their voice regarding what’s in the best interests of families and children. This is the question the California courts will ultimately be deciding: Who is more important—our children and the voice of the people or politicians and special interest groups?"

Massachusetts remains the only state to recognize gay marriage, although Maryland's highest court heard a gay marriage case in December and could issue a decision in early 2007. Also, Connecticut's highest court is considering whether to accept an appeal of a gay marriage case.

The California Supreme Court's announcement further highlights a divide among conservative groups over a proposed constitutional marriage amendment. Conservatives had hoped to place an amendment prohibiting gay marriage on the ballot in 2006, but could not agree on the proposal's language. They subsequently divided into two competing groups and began gathering signatures. In the end, though, both amendments fell short of the requirement.

That division could prove to be significant. The California court likely will rule on the issue before an amendment can be placed on the ballot. If the court legalizes gay marriage, any statewide campaign to adopt a marriage amendment could be much tougher.

But the court's Dec. 20 announcement also could make it easier to collect signatures to qualify an amendment for the ballot.

The lawsuit was filed by the city of San Francisco and a host of liberal legal groups, including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They won at the trial court level, but lost 2-1 at the appeals court level. That appellate decision was handed down in October.

“Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage," Justice William R. McGuiness wrote for the majority in October. "... The time may come when California chooses to expand the definition of marriage to encompass same-sex unions. That change must come from democratic processes, however, not by judicial fiat."

DOJ Sues Fraudulent Tax Preparation Firms
Legal Career News | 2006/12/29 19:58

The Justice Department has brought suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against a Seneca, Ill., couple, Royanne and Neal Reddy, and their businesses, Royanne’s Tax Services and Royanne & Company, seeking to bar them permanently from preparing federal tax returns for others. According to the government complaint, the Reddys, operating their businesses in Marseilles and Princeton, Ill., have prepared more than 9,000 returns since 2002.

The complaint states that the IRS examined 70 income tax returns prepared by the Reddys or employees under their direct supervision. It’s further alleged that all of these returns required adjustments, and 64 returns contained improper deductions of as much as $30,000. The complaint alleges that average under-reported tax on these 70 returns was $2,775, and states that the IRS estimates the total cost to the Treasury of the Reddys’ and their employees’ improper income tax return preparation to be more than $13 million.

The government’s suit alleges that the Reddys fraudulently fabricate or inflate business expenses for customers to reduce their reported income. The Reddys also allegedly fabricate income for some customers to get them Earned Income Tax Credits to which they are not entitled. It is further alleged that the Reddys have provided fabricated documents to IRS agents auditing their customers’ returns.

The suit asks the court to order the Reddys to give the government a list with their customers’ names, addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers.

California restores prisoner voting rights
Legal Career News | 2006/12/29 18:54

The State of California has decided not to appeal a December 21st decision of the California 1st District Court of Appeal restoring voting rights to approximately 100,000 inmates serving a year or less for felony convictions in local jails. The case, filed by the League of Women Voters of California and other voter and prisoner right interest groups, challenged a December 2005 interpretation of Art. 2 Sec. 4 of the California Constitution by Secretary of State Bruce McPhearson maintaining that those serving short term sentences for felonies in county jails were not eligible to vote.

The court’s decision relied on Section 17 of the California Penal Code, which defines felonies and misdemeanors. When a person is sent to a local jail, typically for confinement as a condition of probation, they are not actually convicted of a felony, which would allow their voting rights to be stripped.

Court restores voting rights of 100,000 jail inmates
Court Feed News | 2006/12/29 03:21

A state appeals court is restoring the voting rights of about 100,000 local jail inmates statewide who are serving a year or less for felony convictions.

The state said it would not appeal last week's decision from the 1st District Court of Appeal. The affected inmates were eligible to vote until last year, when the state disenfranchised them.

For three decades, California's secretary of state had interpreted the state Constitution as barring voting by those in state prisons and those on parole after their release. The appeals court said the state wrongly changed the policy last year to include persons convicted of felonies but sentenced to a year or less in a local county jail.

The League of Women Voters brought the case on behalf of three San Francisco County jail inmates.

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